Every evening my wife and I sit together in the living room to watch television – but we rarely ever watch the same show at the same time.
Instead my wife sits on the sofa to catch up on the soaps she’s recorded with Sky+ and I sit at my desk (right next to the sofa) to watch whatever I feel like at that moment on the iPlayer.
But this suits us perfectly – she gets to watch her soaps, I get to watch Charlie Brooker and we then meet in the middle with the amazingly brilliant Outnumbered (god is that show scarily realistic).
But what’s this got to do with iTunes I hear you screaming – well I’ll tell you – in a minute. First I want to explain some of the ways I get my visual media fix while avoiding the strange world of Weatherford and Walfield.
Obviously there is the iPlayer (when I can get a decent enough internet connection to watch the streams – I don’t like downloading using the p2p client or even having it on my computer as it is a massive resource and bandwidth hog).
Then there is the other British broadcasters websites (Channel 4, ITV Player, Five) and even the Sky Player but they all have one thing or another wrong with them – none of them work as easily and seamlessly as the iPlayer – but at least they exist.
All bar the iPlayer require either the Windows Media Player plugin or the Silverlight plugin – now Silverlight will allow play on pretty much any platform but I find it is a dog to install and not as slick as Flash.
And now, with the launch of the new iPlayer Desktop app – that lets you download in Adobe Air/flash format straight to your desktop (with no P2P in sight) it has got even better.
If I’m going to rank Britains six big broadcasters in order of the usefulness and quality of their online video offerings it would go like this:
ITV is only JUST above Channel 4 – because of the silverlight option which is narrowly better than Windows Media – Sky is there because of the ease of use of their Live TV streams and some of the interesting innovations.
But they drop down below ITV purely on the grounds that there isn’t enough Free content on the platform – they get a big bonus for Live Streaming but lose out because of a lack of free on demand streams.
But again that isn’t really the point of the post. I’ve outlined how I watch live streaming video (I also occasionally use Side Reel VERY occasionally when there is nothing on one of the British broadcasters and will buy the odd show from iTunes where I’ve missed the seven day deadline and it isn’t series linked.
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But for now lets move on to the iPlayer Desktop – the main reason I started writing this rambling shambles of a blog post.
Basically there is an all new version of the BBC Download Manager (if you’re a BBC Labs user that is) that drops p2p, drops Windows Media and moves to the ever increasingly brilliant (whatever Linux nuts might think) Adobe AIR platform.
At the moment the iPlayer Desktop is just that – a download manager. You select a show on the iPlayer, tell it to download to desktop, it puts it in a list and you click on it to watch it – simple.
But future versions of the application could get much more exciting. A future version could allow you to download radio podcasts, stream live TV and Radio (straight from within the application) and even allow you to find the content within the Desktop itself.
In fact that is the thing I’m most looking forward to – if I could just full screen the iPlayer Desktop and use it as a full environment to download, stream and do everything I need with the BBCs on demand content – then I could build a computer with the iPlayer Desktop running full screen and connect it to the TV.
I could then use it as a separate AV Channel on the TV and tune into it when there is nothing on Sky+ or when I get a chance to use the TV for a change.
As the new Desktop app has a series booking/scheduling coming soon (the ability to request every episode of a series downloaded directly when it becomes available) this would become even more useful.
I could just leave it running in the background, subscribe the shows I want and then dip in/out whenever I feel like it.
AND if the series booking was associated with a BBC login instead of with the application itself I could book shows from work and have them there when I got home that evening.
Obviously I could already do the streaming part with the iPlayer but there is something extra special associated with having an application full screened designed to do nothing but that.
After all – that’s why iTunes is so successful.
It would also be nice, at some point in the future when the BBC can negotiate a deal with Apple to allow them to use Apple DRM on files, to be able to sync with iTunes/iPod/iPhone/Apple TV throught the iPlayer Desktop – but we can dream.